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This week we explore ideas for letting the audience help in the reporting process by looking at a few examples of how it's being done.

PART 1: Ushahidi for news

Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, is a non-profit tech company in Kenya whose digital tools, CrowdMap and Swift River, are being used to visualize and filter crowd-sourced information.

CrowdMap is a web-based tool that enables users to set up crowd-sourced maps entirely online. It is available to users who create an account. A new version of CrowdMap is scheduled to be released May 6.

The full Ushahidi platform requires installation on a web server and can be downloaded here.

SwiftRiver is designed to sort and filter data streams. It is the organization’s newest tool and is still in beta testing.

Some examples of Ushahidi being used for news:

PART 2: ProPublica Facebook Group

The non-profit investigative news organization ProPublica has brought nearly 1,700 patients, health care providers and journalists together in a Facebook Group to discuss the topic of an upcoming investigation: patient harm. This online community has been a crowd-sourcing tool for the reporters and a forum for interested parties to share their stories.

To get ProPublica’s Patient Harm Facebook Group started, the ProPublica team did most of the posting. Now, most of the comments and links shared come from members themselves.

They also used Google Forms to gather information on people who have a connection with this topic. The form they created yielded a searchable database of potential sources.

FOR MORE DETAILS: ProPublica's Marshall Allen, Olga Pierce and Blair Hickman explain in this podcast how and why they recruited a community of people interested in the issue of patient harm.

PART 3: Online crime reports

Some newsrooms are working with local law enforcement agencies to present information about crime in new ways.

  • The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., is using Pinterest to get the word out about crime suspects. The Mercury posts every mugshot sent from the police, including national suspects. Members of the public are contributing information and disseminating photos by repinning them.

  • The Dallas Morning News is partnering with a governmental group to provide an automated map of crime incidents across five counties. The North Central Texas Council of Governments is providing the data through its LEAP project, a program aimed at enabling law enforcement agencies to share crime data with each other and the public. More details about the project are available in this report from Nieman Journalism Lab.

Reuben Stern  
 
Director of NYC Partnerships



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